Overweight maleTwo stories collided last week.


First, it was very, very warm, so that the heat map of the United States turned a radiant, stop-sign red—the color of Irish skin after the first day of a beach vacation. So hot, in fact, that the National Park Service had to nag people to stop frying eggs on the sidewalk in Death Valley.


Yes, it makes a good anecdote but let it go.


The second story also related to fried foods: according to a report last month from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the United States has lost its rank as the most obese country in the world, with a 31.8 percent obesity rate. The new winner is Mexico with 32.8 percent.


The reports were quick to point out that this victory was the equivalent of a D1 bracket: only the big countries with big people qualified. When you include smaller countries, you have groups that make Mexicans and Americans look like Vogue models. The small South Pacific nation of Nauru can boast that over 71 percent of its adult population is obese. (Not just heavy; obese.) Cook Islands weighs in with a 64 percent rate, Tonga with 60 percent, Samoa with 56 percent. Elsewhere, CBS News notes that American Samoa has an obesity rate of 75 percent.


We like to think that the Cinderella contender might be Qatar, a country that (according to the New York Times) ranks as the “first-richest in the world”—a place of fabled wealth, where the Dilly Bars have golden sticks—“and sixth-fattest.”


And here is where the two stories meld: Qatar is also a hot place. Daily high temperatures are over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for half the year, which means you work up a drenching sweat levering up the leg support for your recliner. This sweat—as well as the lethargy that comes from the relentless, oppressive, skin-searing sun and the not-incidental potential for deadly heat stroke—are all disincentives to exercise.


The Qatar government’s solution is to turn the country into a nation of mall walkers. This is exceedingly reasonable: When you are this wealthy, you have money that needs to be spent. Yes, you could toss hundreds of thousands of dollars at Tiffany’s web site from the air-con comfort of your home or yacht or chauffeured Mercedes. But you could also go back to the olden times, when shopping was a hands-on, close-to-the earth, visceral activity. Like farming. When you actually had to leave your cocoon, lift up your feet and mingle with the masses in the meat world.


Organizers have not risked setting the bar out of reach for their overweight target audience. At one of the participating malls, the designated 12-minute, 1,200-step route is expected to burn 70 calories. To lose one pound, then, a person would need to 50 passes.


But that is not the greatest flaw in the strategy. The greatest—obvious to anyone who has ever actually been to a mall—is that malls have food courts. People who are overweight are probably not long on discipline, and this brilliant exercise regime will drag their noses past the wafting aroma of Cinnabons and chocolate chip cookies. And the four-color, backlit images as seductive as ads for Lexus sedans and ruby red lipstick: icy colas with beads of condensation running down the cup sides, candy-colored fruit drinks.


And Dilly Bars. Creamy, luscious Dilly Bars, the eating of which makes every man a rich man.


Photo: an overweight young man by Aspen04 via Wikimedia Commons.